AOPA Aviation Summit Draws Thousands to Hartford, Conn.

September 29, 2011

Rainy weather couldn’t keep more than 7,000 AOPA members and aviation enthusiasts from flocking to AOPA Aviation Summit, Sept. 22 through 24, 2011, in Hartford, Conn., where they participated in educational seminars, tested and bought pilot products, and checked out Airportfest. In addition, some 17,000 viewers in 74 countries watched live streaming coverage of the event on AOPA Live .

"The crowd was enthusiastic and ready to explore all things general aviation," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "We had a tremendous array of aircraft and exhibitors, great speakers for our keynotes and seminars, and lots of fun and camaraderie at social events. And AOPA Live drew in an audience from around the world.

"In short, it was a wonderful three days for any fan of GA."

Airportfest shines through the rain

Carrying umbrellas and donning ponchos, Airportfest visitors perused 50 aircraft on display, ranging from light sport aircraft – like the Bristell announced at Summit – to turboprops and light jets.

Two of the main attractions were AOPA’s 2011 Crossover Classic Sweepstakes Cessna 182 and 2012 Tougher Than a Tornado Sweepstakes Aviat Husky.

The association announced the Crossover Classic winner during the keynote session on Friday, Sept. 23. Those who missed out on winning the Cessna 182 could take a look at other Cessna models on display at Airportfest, and at the plane they might win next year.

During the day, members of the Flying Musicians Association serenaded visitors with song and instrumental numbers featuring guitars and a digital accordion. On Friday night, pilots gathered under tents to eat, listen to local Hartford band Out of Touch, and dance the night away during the Rock ‘n Rally at Hartford-Brainard Airport.

Meanwhile, others stayed dry with a host of activities in the Connecticut Convention Center, including an exhibit hall featuring 400 booths, educational seminars, and AOPA Live programs.

New products, cutting-edge aircraft in exhibit hall

With the record-setting Sikorsky X2, Terrafugia Transition, and Cirrus SR22T in the Connecticut Convention Center, the exhibit hall proved a major attraction.

Sikorsky’s sleek, high-speed X2 helicopter demonstrator drew stares near the AOPA Live stage, as did the Transition, across the hall near the Learn To Fly Center stage.

The proliferation of tablet-based computing devices is, if anything, even more prevalent in the aviation community than in the overall population. Exhibitors and seminars that featured tablet devices or software were especially popular with show-goers.

Good pilots are always learning

Attendees also participated in more than 60 hours of educational seminars.

One of the most popular seminars, "iPads in the Cockpit" gave more than 400 pilots tips for how to use the popular electronic device for flight planning, pulling up charts and approach plates, and more.

Others learned how to save their lives in an aircraft accident and ditch successfully .

Medical certification, aging aircraft, and aviation humor also were popular seminar topics.

In addition to seminars scattered throughout the convention center, pilots also enjoyed product demonstrations and mini seminars in the exhibit hall at the AOPA Learning Pavilion.

In all more than 60 hours of educational seminars were offered.

AOPA Live draws in-person attendees, online viewers

AOPA Live programming, sponsored by United Technologies, drew crowds to the exhibit hall for talks on a variety of general aviation-related topics. One of the biggest draws was an interview with Cuba Gooding Jr., who stars in the upcoming Lucasfilm TM production, Red Tails, which features the trials and triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Aviation meets here

When 7,000 pilots gather in one area, there’s no doubt some strategic planning and business ideas and partnerships are blooming. AOPA used the opportunity to meet with existing Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers and talk about new strategies to promote, protect, and defend community airports. Fuller and Sean Elliot, who heads the Experimental Aircraft Association’s government affairs team, joined the ASN staff in speaking to the volunteer meeting.

A delegation of officials from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) came to Hartford as a side trip to learn more about general aviation on Saturday during a visit to the United States for the 2011 U.S.-China Aviation Summit in Washington, D.C. The delegation looked at new aircraft and cockpit technologies in the exhibit hall at the Connecticut Convention Center.

The officials arrived at Bradley International Airport in Citation jets provided by AOPA and Cessna Aircraft, prompting CAAC Aircraft and Airworthiness Certification Department Deputy Director General Shijun Yin to remark through an interpreter on the ease and convenience of corporate aviation in the United States.

Party time

AOPA Aviation Summit also featured a lighter side for members. The show’s social events kicked off Thursday evening with a benefit fundraiser dinner for the AOPA Foundation. The night was the culmination of the online A Night for Flight Auction, and proceeds from the auction and dinner contributed $200,000 to the foundation for its efforts to promote safety, boost the pilot population, protect airports, and enhance the public’s perception of general aviation.

Those looking for a lower-key night on Thursday attended a double feature at the Connecticut Science Center to view aviation movies Memphis Belle and Legends of Flight.

Friday night featured the Rock ‘n Rally at Airportfest and intimate dine-around dinners with airshow legends, military pilots, the editors of AOPA Pilot, women leaders in aviation, doctors, and pilot authors.

Hundreds gathered for the closing dinner on Saturday evening at the New England Air Museum. Groups dined to music and walked through the museum’s exhibits, which featured a B-29 Superfortress called Jack’s Hack, a Sikorsky VS-44 Flying Boat, Gee Bee racers, a Lockheed Electra, a DC-3, a balloon basket from about 1870, a Chance-Vought XF4U-4 Corsair, and a Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Summit 2012 headed to Palm Springs

The AOPA Aviation Summit returns to the West Coast in Palm Springs, Calif., October 11-13, 2012, and will feature all of the popular seminars, social events, and exhibitors that members come to expect at each event.

Details and registration for 2012 will be announced on the AOPA Aviation Summit web pages .